G20 countries are fuelling 'modern slavery,' report says
The world's 20 richest countries are fuelling forced labour and account for over half the estimated 50 million people living in "modern slavery," according to a report released Wednesday.
The report by the Walk Free foundation, a human rights group that focuses on modern slavery, said six members of the Group of 20 nations have the largest number of people in modern slavery — either in forced labour or forced marriage.
India tops the list with 11 million, followed by China with 5.8 million, Russia with 1.9 million, Indonesia with 1.8 million, Turkey with 1.3 million and the United States with 1.1 million.
Out of the G20 countries, Canada was in the fifteenth place for prevalence of modern slavery, ahead of the U.K. and behind France and South Africa, according to the foundation's report. It said Canada has almost 69,000 people who are being exploited for labour or forced marriage with seemingly no way out.
With the exception of Japan, the countries with the lowest prevalence of modern slavery are from northern or western Europe, the report said.
But even those countries — including Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Finland — still have "thousands of people who continue to be forced to work or marry against their will, despite their high levels of economic development, gender equality, social welfare and political stability, as well as strong criminal justice systems," according to the report.
Last September, a report by the UN's International Labour Organization and International Organization for Migration and Walk Free estimated that 50 million people were living in "modern slavery" — 28 million in forced labour and 22 million in forced marriage — at the end of 2021. Overall, that was an increase of 10 million people in just five years from the end of 2016.
Walk Free's 2023 report provided the same numbers for "any given day in 2021," with an increase of 10 million since its 2018 index.
"Modern slavery permeates every aspect of our society," Walk Free founding director Grace Forrest said in a statement. "It is woven through our clothes, lights up our electronics and seasons our food," she said. Noting it is "a mirror held to power, reflecting who in any given society has it and who does not."
"Modern slavery is hidden in plain sight and is deeply intertwined with life in every corner of the world," the Walk Free report said.
"Each day, people are tricked, coerced, or forced into exploitative situations that they cannot refuse or leave. Each day, we buy the products or use the services they have been forced to make or offer without realizing the hidden human cost."
This is most evident in global supply chains, where G20 nations import $468 million US worth of products annually which are considered "at risk" of being produced by forced labour, including electronics, garments, palm oil, solar panels and textiles, the report said.
It said forced labour occurs in all countries, regardless of income and is "deeply connected to demand from higher-income countries," with the production and movement of goods between countries creating complex supply chains, "many of them tainted with forced labour."
Australia-based Walk Free said its 172-page report and estimates of global slavery in 160 countries draw on thousands of interviews with survivors collected through nationally representative household surveys and its assessments of a nation's vulnerability.